The Endless takes the viewer on a bizarre trip through time loops and alternative universes, most of which exist unbeknownst to us in the backyards of our own minds.
Writers and directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who also star in The Endless, have previously directed the metaphysical mystery Resolution (2012) and the horrific yet artful Spring (2014).
“We get swapped around quote wise pretty often when doing phone interviews,” says Moorhead in a conversation with Free Press Houston.
The Endless stars Benson (Justin Smith) and Moorhead (Aaron Smith) as brothers who years ago as youths had escaped from a UFO death cult in the backwoods of California. When an unmarked video arrives in their mail with a message from the cult, the duo decides to revisit the homemade city in the hills for a sense of closure. What they encounter not only blows your mind, but also forms the basis of a tightly knit enigma that will both confuse and amaze audiences.
After arriving at Camp Arcadia, we are treated to a well thought out tracking shot in slow motion that takes in several things at once. “Justin and I are pretty good at a lot of things but we’re not very good at training birds,” jokes Moorhead about a CGI flock of black birds that fly past the camera.
The shot follows a trail and veers to the right to observe archers shooting their arrows and then follows a jogger as well as a motorbike, and even goes past a group of people standing next to a van that happen to be members of the cast from Resolution.
“We got that shot in three takes, it wasn’t too tough, mainly just nailing down focus,” says Moorhead. “The miracle of that shot is two of the extras who had never done any archery both got near bull’s-eyes.”
There are some great moments as well as brilliant dialogue that give The Endless a boost that puts it in above average territory. In one scene, a character talks about drilling a hole in their head, which is known as trepanning, and in actuality goes back hundreds of years as a medical cure-all. “I came across that recently in a book, and somewhere in the brain is the third eye, so in order to talk to God people drill holes into their skulls,” says Benson.
There’s a painting by Hieronymus Bosch that depicts trepanning titled “The Extraction of the Stone of Madness,” completed around 1494, which goes to show that such modern concepts are not new at all.
Religion and ceremony takes center stage in The Endless. The cult makes money by brewing craft beer. The membership includes people from all walks of life, including one lovely lass who used to reside in a mental institution nearby who realized that the members of the cult really understood her. “I used to be on a combination of lithium, thorazine and PCP,” she tells the Smith brothers in the film.
“It allows her to be in a state of mind of an entity that you can’t otherwise see,” says Benson.
The entire campground turns out to be located in a place where time repeats itself in loops. The further you get from ground zero the shorter the loops become. One brother stumbles into a cabin where he witnesses a man who is both alive and at the same time standing next to his dead body hung from a rope.
No matter how much the brothers try to leave, they find themselves right back where they started.
“Our work recently has to do with rebellion,” says Moorhead. “We’re both developing two television shows and they deal with cult type leaders. The fascination is with making sure you don’t repeat past mistakes.”
Benson adds: “Whatever happens in Camp Arcadia has as much to do with being part of a family as with being part of a cult.”
Moorhead says: “Any group that gets together that thinks they have a secret that others don’t have is a cult. Also there’s a lot of that that isn’t harmful. It becomes a cult when it becomes harmful; it all has to do with a strong leader in order to be classified as a cult. Before that it’s a spiritual group practicing yoga.”
One of the television projects Moorhead and Benson are working on revolves around Aleister Crowley
“Right now we’re working on the pilot,” says Benson. “Don’t know if we will make it to series yet. It’s a story we’re really passionate about. It’s a one-hour drama with supernatural aspects. It’s not a documentary; we don’t stick to his life exactly. Not exactly aggrandizing him but also not saying he was the most wicked man in the world.”
Crowley was always in competition with poet W.B. Yeats. Yeats, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, wanted to be the master magician, and Crowley wanted to be the master poet.
“That’s what we would like to explore if it becomes a series. Their rivalry was ageless,” says Moorhead. “One has talent the other has power, and they each have the other.”
Crowley had bought a country estate in Scotland with the express purpose of living there in solitude and evoking rituals to bring about other dimensions and other entities.
“It’s a house called Boleskine House [Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page bought the house after Crowley.], on the shores of Loch Ness. He was trying to evoke spirits. They use the words angels and demons in that type of magick but it’s not literal. It’s something a bit more complicated,” says Benson.